Preparation and Planning

Collaboration with Community Partners

Collaboration and partnership with community partners allow course instructors to provide authentic platform for experiential learning to take place. Moreover, it opens up chances for our students to serve the community as global citizens, while the organisations and community benefit as a result. Community partners hence constitute an indispensable part for the success of the programme.

There are some important factors to consider in approaching and engaging with community partners for mutual benefit.

This starts from searching for and identifying relevant experiential learning projects or opportunities. After identifying the learning sites and partners, instructors should move to engaging and connecting with partners to foster the greatest potential of experiential learning activities by focusing on and prioritizing not just the needs of the student but also of the community partners. Some practical tools and insights follow in this section.

We consider our community partners co-educators of our students, and the frontline community work as the third-space that bridge classroom knowledge to wider community with authenticity (Zeichner, 2010).

Strategies for rapport building with community partners

Here are some Strategies for rapport building with community partners:

  • Thank you letters.
  • Recognition events (breakfast or lunch).
  • Framed certificates.
  • Listing the names of the community partners and writing articles about them in faculty and university publications.
  • Publishing a newsletter on experiential learning events and activities, in which the community partners are recognized.
  • Showcasing the workplace partners’ work and practices for students.
  • Inviting community partners to staff training and development as trainers or participants.
  • Hosting a fair where students and the university community can appreciate the breadth and depth of the experiential learning experiences.

(Adapted from Cooper, Orrell & Bowden, 2010)

Preparing the Students

While many students learn to embrace the very different and possibly life-changing experiences, the anxiety and worries related to the unpredictability and novelty are as real. The strategies outlined in this part aim to help instructors empower the students to get ready for this exciting and challenging journey. 

Helping students on goal setting

Partner Organisation:

  • Describe the organisation that you will work at
  • Why you choose them, what they do, who they serve, and how you find out about them, etc.

Learning Goals:

  • Write three learning goals you hope to achieve by the end of the programme and how these are relate to your academic interests, career goals and/or life goals.
  • Describe the criteria that you will assess your goals: the evaluation process, self-assessment, what criteria you will use and who will help judge, etc.

Ideas for formulating your goals? Some examples:

  • Do I want to explore a broad career area (such as work in a radio station or an attorney’s office) or do I want to learn something more specific?  If so, what?
  • What new knowledge do I want to develop for myself (i.e., how to use a new computer software, or how a marketing plan is formulated)?
  • Am I interested in enhancing my personal skills, such as teamwork or communicating with a wide variety of individuals, or becoming proficient with a computer program that I have used a few times?
  • Do I want to see what it is like to work in a specific setting, such as a multi-national corporation, or a suburban branch office?
  • In what ways do I want to integrate my academic knowledge in this experiential learning programme?

In the process of writing the learning goals:

  • Begin with a general idea of what you want to learn;
  • Refine and develop this idea through discussing with the experiential learning coordinator, your course instructors and your on-site supervisor and;
  • Consolidate the discussion result by putting down a number of concrete learning goals.

Activities, Tasks and Projects:

  • After identifying your learning goals, the next step for you is to work out how these goals can be accomplished. This involves identifying the tasks that are available at the project site and seeing how they can be connected to your goals through discussion with your on-site supervisor.

Some ideas to get started:

  • Discuss with the on-site supervisor what you hope to learn, and find out what tasks and projects you will have during the project placement.
  • Find out how you will be expected to learn – will you work beside staff members, shadow a worker, or be responsible for a specific project?
  • Keep communicating with your on-site supervisor regarding the tasks and daily activities so that both you and your on-site supervisor have a shared understanding of your progress and challenges.
    (Adapted from Experiential Learning Office, Hanover College)